Public speaking can be a challenge for anyone, but for women there are additional hurdles. I once asked a White House speechwriter what he thought the biggest challenge for his female speakers might be and his answer was immediately "humour". Women can be funny he said, but audiences are less willing to respond to female wit. Washington's response to Michelle Wolf's now infamous Correspondents' dinner monologue proves his point.
In a world in which Amal Clooney's yellow dress got more column inches than her speech on genocide - women out there, if you're still willing to get up in front of an audience, all I can say is more power to you. You are the leaders the world needs to hear, so I'm inviting you to join my Public speaking for women workshop in Edinburgh this November. Here's a taster.
Your voice is an instrument
How many times have you heard a woman's voice described as too quiet, high-pitched or annoying? Despite her CV as a kick ass lawyer, diplomat and presidential candidate, even Hillary Clinton has been labelled by some as "shrill", whatever that means. Whether you're a sassy soprano or a charismatic contralto, know that your voice is an instrument. Learn how to be your own microphone and project. You don't need to change your voice, but it helps to be aware that audiences can unfairly perceive the female voice as less credible than the lower masculine pitch for which the first microphones were originally designed.
Make yourself at home
When it comes to stage presence, the more relaxed and conversational you can be, the more at ease and willing to come on a journey with you your audience will be. I'm a great fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's classic TED talk We should all be feminists. Here is a woman talking to the audience with the utmost authenticity. On what for many people is a highly emotive and contentious subject, feminism, she uses personal anecdotes to make powerful, unapologetic statements and her audience is with her all the way.
Don't sabotage your authority
There are certain phrases - like "I'm just" and "I'm sorry" - that undermine our personal authority on stage. If you're in the habit of apologising for your very existence then stop. Consider how your body language might also be giving too much away. Do your eyes roll upward when you're thinking on your feet? Do you look down at the floor when listening to a question? Remember, you have the same qualification as everyone else on stage. You were asked to speak because you have something to say. You're the expert, so own it.